The Emotional Worm
May 1, 2012 by
Categories: Emotions

Last month, my book club read a fantastic book by Jennifer Egan, titled The Keep. In the book, one of the characters describes “the worm” – this all-encompassing paranoia that distorts your perceptions and feelings. Lately, I’ve been thinking about how I experience this worm.

While on a long drive home yesterday, I began reflecting on my past week. For the first time in several days, I had some alone time. All of the thoughts and concerns that had been pushed to the back of my mind throughout the week took this as their opportunity to come out.

Somehow, the primary themes became insecurity, a lack of self-confidence, and an inability to do things right. In the span of 20 minutes, I had convinced myself that my friendships and family relationships were falling apart – and that I was to blame. Thinking back on my personal interactions over the past week, I realized that they were all proof of my shortcomings. I felt this knot in the pit of my stomach that screamed, there is nothing you can do to fix anything!

The worm. Like a harsh shove, I realized the worm was with me. How did it get there? Did I let it in? How did it sneak past me? I thought was being so mindful!

I realized the worm was distorting everything. Forcing me to interpret my own emotions as fact about my place in the world. If I’m feeling insecure, I must be lacking something. If I’m not feeling confident, I must not have anything to be confident about. If I’m feeling like I can’t do things right, it is because I can’t.

These statements are entirely and perfectly untrue.

Emotions, on their own, are never bad. Some may not feel pleasant, but all emotions serve a purpose.  A problem occurs when we begin to interpret our feelings as fact.

When you realize the worm is there, it is a cue to talk to someone – a friend, a family member, a willing stranger, a therapist… anyone. A blessing came later when my husband called and lovingly listened to the bizarre thoughts that were streaming in my head. A key piece is having someone help you discredit the thoughts, although it should be done gently and with empathy.

It may rear its head from time to time or show up unexpectedly. But the worm doesn’t have to stay around. 

You have the wheel.

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4 Thoughts About The Emotional Worm

  • Audrey
    May 1, 2012 at 9:58 am Reply

    “A problem occurs when we begin to interpret our feelings as fact.”

    I had a similar situation earlier this week. I was feeling anxious and came to the conclusion that there was “something terribly wrong with my relationship and I am doing all the wrong things and the fact that I’m anxious must mean there’s something missing and I am failing and… wait. No, that doesn’t make any sense. I think I’m just anxious about my finals.”

    I think the lie the worm tells me is, “If I’m feeling anxious, I must be making a mistake in some big area of my life.”

    Just taking a second to breathe, to recognize my emotion, and then to let it go gave me the clarity I needed. Just because I feel slightly anxious doesn’t mean my life is falling apart. It just means I’m human.

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